Captive audience for poems on bus

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A BRAVE crowd of poetry-lovers and politicians crammed into a shiny new ACTION bus this morning for the unveiling of the latest edition in the “Poetry in ACTION” series that sees 8-line poems by selected Canberra poets installed in buses for a year.

This year, we heard, 270 poems were received, presenting judges poets Hal Judge, Lizz Murphy and Will Small with quite a challenge in coming up with a shortlist and then a list of 10 final winners, each of whom received $500, a $40 MyWay card and their winning poem posted on ACTION buses.

The project was obviously a favourite of ACT Arts Minister Joy Burch, who told her  “captive” audience, some of whom were fearful that the bus was about to take off for parts unknown, that viewing the poems in the buses “gives me a light sense in myself.”

"April Mornings" by P.S. Cottier
“April Mornings” by P.S. Cottier
Ms Burch, in announcing the team winners of the competition, added, “It’s a really good way to not only encourage locals to write poems but also promote these works – and poetry more generally – to the wider Canberra community.”

Now for one year, bus commuters will be able to enjoy reading the poems of Tara Cheyne, Peter Clynes, P.S. Cottier, Isaac Dugdale, Katherine Hind, Rosa O’Kane, Moya Pacey, Geoff Page, Sarah Rice and Elisabeth Yarbakhsh.

Most were on hand to read their winning poems, which ranged from mini odes to Canberra reflecting on the changing seasons and favourite phenomena like roundabouts to droll reflections, as in the rhyming poem by Radford College student Isaac Dugdale that mused on the problems of finding a parking spot at the school.

In fact, it was an underlying sense of humour and light irony that saved the winners from descending into propaganda.

“Being Canberra’s 100th birthday, the poems evoke different aspects of our wonderful city,” Ms Burch said, and sure enough a poem by Moya Pacey conjured up the studio of Marion Mahoney Griffin as she “created Canberra” in her drawings.

Bike-riding ArtsACT chief, David Whitney, said he had noticed when he occasionally got on a bus how people were invariably reading the poems closely. He praised the “beautiful designs,” delicate sketches that illustrated the poems, by designer Trevor Dickinson from Newcastle.

Over morning tea at the Canberra Museum and Gallery, the winning poets and some of the additional 10 shortlisted poets who had each received a $40 MyWay card, reflected on questions like how to write a mere 8 lines and whether to rhyme or not.

The 10 winning poems are now listed and reproduced at www.arts.act.gov.au

Poets and visitors in the ACTION bus today
Poets and visitors in the ACTION bus today

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Helen Musa
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